Saturday, February 28, 2009

Weekend on the Farm

Spring is a bird on a workboot.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Long Live Guts

According to a story in the Telegraph, Dr. Mark Pagel of the University of Reading has discovered the oldest words in the world: I, you(thou), we, who, two, three, and five. These words are so similar to their origins that they could have been understood by a human living 20,000 years ago. Pagel also discovered that words and DNA evolve on the same timetable. So, if Darwin were an English major, he might still have developed the theory of evolution. Fabulous.

As a poet, I am curious about the sounds that keep repeating in this list of ancient words, the long vowels I and E and the double OO. These must have been the primal vowels our ancestors first spoke to each other, the backbone of our language systems. These words also indicate why and how language first began. Without someone to talk to, a human would have no need for words. But once they began living in groups, it would have been neccesary to distinguish between I and We. This might also explain why Two is older than One...there must be at least two people to communicate, right?

Politically, this has some interesting implications as well. Sacred texts that others use to argue against evolution are written with words, which themselves model evolution. I am reminded of a documentary about the Bible, which suggested that the word interpreted as "virgin" might mean simply "young woman," throwing into peril the entire virgin birth. Language, like the humans who invented it, is in constant flux.

Of course, this is all fascinating, but I must take time to lament the words Pagel identified as most in danger of disappearing: dirty, squeeze, bad, because, guts, push, smell, stab, stick, turn, and wipe. Now don't worry...except for "because," which is quickly turning into "cause," these words will still be around for another thousand years or so...plenty of time to give them a place of honor in our writing. I for one am going to do my best to keep Dirty, Guts, and Squeeze from succumbing to oblivion.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Poop-Neck and a poem by Daniel Anderson

Our dog, George, is usually clean and well-behaved. But sometimes, especially at our rural home, he is overcome with wildness: running laps in a muddy ditch, chasing coyotes into the night field to "play," and yes, rolling in poop. Sometimes we call him Poop-Neck or Pig-Dog, though lovingly. If you have a dog, you understand.

Here's a wonderful poem about a dog:

Bill Fowler’s Pointer Hears a Voice
by Daniel Anderson
originally published in The Cincinnati Review

It says he craves the taste of squirrel,
Of rabbit and black snake, even wasp.
It tells him that the scum-choked pond
Is a delicious drink. The air
And earth, it says, are languages,
And you must ponder what they mean.
Wild peppermint, the sassafras,
Larkspur, trillium, the squandered salt,
The hidden urinary script
On leaves, on wrappers, bark, and weeds.
It tells him that he is a god
Whose rolling golden agate eyes
Reveal an inward fire. I’ve seen
Him when the voice has stopped him flat
In his exquisite stride and said,
Forget the squirrel, the luscious wasp.
Inhale this ripe bouquet instead:
The unapologetic, pure
Cologne of carrion. Or this:
The dark, sweet essences of shit.
Breathe deep, it says. Think twice, then drive
Your bony shoulder into it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Weekly Workshop: A Siege of Herons

A big group of blue herons have camped out in the field behind our house. They flap their wings and honk menacingly each time the dog walks by, and I have dreamed their great wings engulfing a body and making it disappear. No wonder that as a group they are called a "siege," sometimes a "surge;" together, they look like a great blue army, an angry wave rising up from the wheat.

I couldn't find out the person or persons responsible for these collective names. If you know, please tell me...they are a fabulous collision of science and metaphor. Here are some others:

A Parliament of Rooks

A Troubling of Goldfish

An Intrusion of Cockroaches

A Sleuth of Bears

A Kettle of Vultures

A Fever of Stingrays

A Gaze of Raccoons

A Scourge of Mosquitoes

A Shiver of Sharks

A Richness of Martins

A Bike of Hornets

A Boil of Hawks

An Earth of Foxes

A Memory of Elephants

A Shrewdness of Apes

More can be found here. My next poem will definitely have a bike of hornets in it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Life Support: March Literary Events in Sacramento and Beyond


Brian Turner
Sacramento Poetry Center
1719 25th Street
Sacramento, CA

After earning his MFA from University of Oregon, Fresno native Brian Turner enlisted in the Army and was deployed to Iraq. His award-winning volume of poems, Here, Bullet, published by Alice James Books, explores his harrowing experience and inducts Turner into the annals of war-time poets.

Alice Anderson
Bistro 33 Poetry Night
Bistro 33 Davis
226 F Street
Davis, CA

Alice Anderson is the author of Human Nature, winner of the Elmer Holmes Bobst Prize for Emerging Writers and published by NYU Press. Having escaped Mississippi’s hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, she now lives, works, and writes in Sacramento.


Story Voices—A Voice of My Own
Cosumnes River College Recital Hall
8401 Center Parkway
Sacramento, CA

Combining classic prose, poetry, and song from the likes of Sappho, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, and Virginia Woolf, A Voice of My Own celebrates women authors and artists. Performers Jan Ahders, Claire Lipschultz, Cynthia Mitchell, and Marni Webb are seasoned performers who have won multiple awards.


Dobby Gibson & Matt Hart
Sacramento Poetry Center
1719 25th Street
Sacramento, CA

Dobby Gibson has written two full-length collections, Polar, published by Alice James Books, and Skirmish, just out from Graywolf Press. Tony Hoagland says, “This is a poetry of---in Gibson's own terms---echolocation, that makes us grapple with the ghosts of speech and world at once.”

Matt Hart has written four books, including the full-length collection
Who’s Who Vivid, published by Slope Editions. He is the editor of Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking, & Light Industrial Safety. Dean Young says, “When Caesar said about horses that if the gods hadn’t invented them, we would have to, he could have been talking about Matt Hart.”


Richard Price
California Lecture Series
Crest Theatre
1013 K Street
Sacramento, CA

Richard Price the author of seven novels, including Clockers, Freedomland, and Lush Life. He received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay The Color of Money and won an Edgar Award for his work on HBO’s The Wire. Price has taught writing at Columbia, Yale, and New York University.


Franz Wisner, James D. Houston, and others
The Places We Go: Authors on the Move 2009
Sacramento Library Association Fundraiser
Hyatt Hotel
Sacramento, CA

Franz Wisner channeled his romantic woes into two memoirs, the best-selling Honeymoon with My Brother and How the World Makes Love, debuting at Authors on the Move. For his second memoir, Franz traveled the world, looking for the secret to true love.

Santa Cruz author James D. Houston’s books include
Farewell to Manzanar, co-written with his wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, and The Last Paradise, winner of the 1999 American Book Award. At the event, he will celebrate the release of his newest book, The Light Takes its Color from the Sea, a meditation on life in Santa Cruz.


Joan Gelfand
The Avid Reader—Davis
617 Second Street
Davis, CA 95616

Joan Gelfand is the founder of Salon CIEL, a group of Bay Area writers and artists. Her most recent collection, A Dreamer’s Guide to Cities and Streams is published by San Francisco Bay Press. Al Young says “Joan Gelfand’s poems vibrate, shudder or take flight, roaring and purring to safe and not so safe landings in the heart, in the gut.”


Kathryn Cowles
1078 Gallery
820 Broadway
Chico, CA

Kathryn Cowles’s first book,
Eleanor, Eleanor, Not Your Real Name, won the 2008 Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Contest and is published by Bear Star Press. Of Cowles, Donald Revell says, “Cowles is a poet who knows where poetry comes from and whither it is bound. Hers is the adventure of tenderness brightly underway.”


Troy Jollimore
Sacramento Poetry Center
1719 25th Street
Sacramento, CA

Troy Jollimore is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at CSU Chico. His poetry collection,
Tom Thomson in Purgatory was selected by Billy Collins for the 2005 Robert E. Lee & Ruth I. Wilson Poetry Book Award. A chapbook, The Solipsist, is available from Bear Star Press.


James Shea & Catherine Theis
The Write! Look! Listen! Reading Series
UC Merced, Kolligan Library
5200 N Lake Road
Merced, CA

James Shea is the author of
Star in the Eye, winner of the 2008 Fence Modern Poets Series. Dean Young says, “If anyone could cut a diamond with a paintbrush, it would be James Shea—his work is so marvelous; utterly lucent and revivifyingly strange.”

Catherine Theis’ chapbooks include
The Maybook, published by Your Beeswax Press, and In Fortune from Dusie Press, cowritten with Lauren Levin and Jared Stanley. Catherine has had work appear in Court Green, Blackbird, and Verse Daily, among others.

Kevin Prufer & Troy Jollimore
1078 Gallery
820 Broadway
Chico, CA

Kevin Prufer is the editor for
Pleiades and author of four books, including the critically-acclaimed National Anthem from Four Way Books. Marie Howe says, “Kevin Prufer has courage and compassion. And he places words so beautiful and accurate and terrifying along a line you can't help but read to the end...”

Troy Jollimore is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at CSU Chico. His poetry collection,
Tom Thomson in Purgatory was selected by Billy Collins for the 2005 Robert E. Lee & Ruth I. Wilson Poetry Book Award. A chapbook, The Solipsist, is available from Bear Star Press.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Movie Monday: Very Necessary

One of my favorite Oscars (Wilde) once said, "We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities." This applies perfectly to another of my favorite Oscars: the often bloated, sometimes awkward, yet still glamorous Academy Awards. Last night's 81st broadcast was a world away from the incomprehensible speeches and horrendous looks of the 80th Academy Awards, and I was inspired to create the following list of things to love about the unnecessary necessity of the Oscars:

1. The star-studded soapbox. The Oscars might have been my first exposure to the concept of political art, or artistic politics. I find myself cheering inwardly at these moments, from Tom Hanks' acceptance speech after his win for Philadelphia, to the barrier-busting double-win for Halle Berry and Denzel Washington, straight through to this year, when Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black gave equally elegant speeches about the gay rights movement.

2. The musical numbers. Hugh Jackman announced last night that "the musical is back!" but the Oscars have always been musically-inclined. Billy Crystal is, of course, the king of Oscar night music, though Hugh did an admirable job as well. And of course, when you combine music and movies, you get dancing as well. I often wish people would break out into song and synchronized dance moves in real life, don't you?

3. The dresses, my lord, the dresses. I may not look it now, but I was once a girly-girl who wore a dress to school every day. For girls like me, the Oscars are glam-central, and with a few notable exceptions (um, what was Jessica Biel thinking?), the fashion last night was impeccable. Some of my favorites included Amy Adams' succulent red sheath, Tina Fey's glitz, and Angelina Jolie's massive emerald gems.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Let's Get Physical

I am thrilled and relieved to announce that Perpetual Care, my first full-length collection of poetry, is finally available. It's a wonderfully slick and surprisingly sturdy volume from Elixir Press. I love it like a child, flaws and all. Yes, that's right...flaws. One typo somehow managed to wiggle its way past multiple, extensive edits, and I must applaud its tenacity. If you can find that stalwart typo, I'll buy you a drink.

The cover art above is courtesy of Rachel Reisert, my friend and former co-coordinator of ASU's Visual Text Project. Copies of the book can be purchased from Amazon, Small Press Distribution, and Elixir Press. Thank you for your support!